Moondial – Helen Cresswell

Minty has heard stories of strange happenings in the big house across the road from her Aunt’s cottage.  And when she walks through the gates, the lodge-keeper knows it is Minty who holds the key to the mysteries.  She only has to discover the secret power of the moondial, and she will be ready to carry out the dangerous mission that awaits her…

As a child I must have watched the television show half a dozen times so having been given the book by my parents a couple of Christmases ago, I have made sure to hold onto it.  Having read through the story twice so far and thoroughly loving it both times, it surely deserves more attention, especially for the younger generations.

The Nostalgia factor aside, the book itself holds up remarkably well.  It’s a beautifully told story, full of haunting set pieces (one of which was quite sinister and sent a bit of a shiver up my spine, which is a rare thing to happen), and it positively oozes charm and a sense of adventure and discovery.

Things gets going quickly and thickly layers on a sense of the secrets waiting to be discovered.  The prologue starts off this trend by setting up the reader with that feeling of solitariness and an encouragement to visualise the described surroundings.  Once involved with the imagining, the vulnerability and aloneness of the night are very effective in the scene setting. It’s a simple step to immerse one’s self in the atmosphere of the book after that.

This is a great read for all ages, a wonderful story of place and time, of ages, and the feel of history set in physical stone, and how that is an echo both forwards and backwards in time to our age.  The contemplation and interpretation of ornamental garden decorations has never been so interesting and has surely inspired the imagination of many a writer.  The part it plays within the story is both puzzling and charming.  Without giving any spoilers out ,the story itself manages to take in several strands both of present and past, and weave them in such a way as to give them equal time although the pressing story of the present isn’t as interesting.

Moondial retains its emotional impact and still manages to put a big smile on my face, being a more than satisfying read.  Like with its modern YA counterparts of today, there are ‘issues’ to be dealt with.  Minty’s problems almost feel like a respectful aside rather than a main storyline but this is for the better and plays to the strengths of the book.  It helps compliment the other story aspects rather than detract or overshadow them.

A few unanswered questions remain at the end but this actually adds to the charm of the book and leaves the reader to speculate on both the questions not answered and also, in a more general way, about life.  There is the odd similarity with Tom’s Midnight Garden, it feels magical but not overly so. The magic it does possess comes in the form of real world tangibility, something to stimulate the imagination of children and to encourage the wonder in adults seeking a respite from the modern day.

For those who can’t source the book, or just prefer to watch the TV show (in all its 80’s glory) it is currently on YouTube in its entirety.  Here is the introduction (sorry for the low quality) that really helped grab the imagination of thousands of children, including me, back in the day and still retains it’s haunting atmosphere even thirty years after it’s original broadcast.


21 Replies to “Moondial – Helen Cresswell”

  1. oooh what a delicious blast from the past! I find it hard to read YA books these days, but perhaps I will make an exception for this one…. 🙂


    1. Yes do! It really is a good rread, with a great balance of adventure and character. I don’t read a lot of YA but when I look to dabble, many of the books are issues focused and I just want a sense of wwonder sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never heard of this Ste J. Great review! Boy, you can find just about anything on YouTube. These days, I’m hooked on Book Trib which has so many author interviews. I love to hear about everyone’s process. Happy Saturday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I shallshall look that up, I’m not familiar with it. YouTube is great for finding so many nostalgic things, or downright weird. Sometimes it is a bit too addictive.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I remember reading the Bagthorpe stories as a child, they seemed such thick books then. That is a series that I could do with reading again as well, such a different tone from these stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just this line makes me want to read it: “and the feel of history set in physical stone, and how that is an echo both forwards and backwards in time to our age.” I love anything with real magic and mystery.


  4. What a wonderful idea for a book and a series! I think it smacks a little of Dickens in atmosphere possibly, and I’m glad to see that now the Gothic atmosphere doesn’t leave out children. When I was younger, most of the time I was reading Gothic romances in order to get that chill along the spine, and it was a little old for me.


    1. The aspects of Gothic are subtly interwoven in the odd part but it isn’t a huge part of the story. As to Dickens, there is a class plight message which has a Dickensian aspect. Reading the Gothic romances when younger is a great challenge and springboard into literature, although these days with so many books around, I don’t think it happens so much.


    1. I love both, the TV show has the nostalgia factor and may be a tad cheesy these days but that can also be fun. The book really is a lovely read. It’s one of the few books I always keep close on my shelves.

      Liked by 2 people

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